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Exploring a contemporary Judaism rich with the textures of family, memory, and fellowship, Jodi Eichler-Levine takes readers inside a flourishing American Jewish crafting movement. As she traveled across the country to homes, craft conventions, synagogue knitting circles, and craftivist actions, she joined in the making, asked questions, and contemplated her own family stories. Jewish Americans, many of them women, are creating ritual challah covers and prayer shawls, ink, clay, or wood pieces, and other articles for family, friends, or Jewish charities. But they are doing much more, Eichler-Levine shows: armed with perhaps only a needle and thread, they are reckoning with Jewish identity in a fragile and dangerous world.
The work of these crafters embodies a vital Judaism that may lie outside traditional notions of Jewishness, but, as Eichler-Levine argues, these crafters are as much engaged as any Jews in honoring and nurturing the fortitude, memory, and community of the Jewish people. Craftmaking is nothing less than an act of generative resilience that fosters survival. Whether taking place in such groups as the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework or the Jewish Hearts for Pittsburgh, or in a home studio, these everyday acts of creativity—yielding a needlepoint rabbi, say, or a handkerchief embroidered with the Hebrew words tikkun olam—are a crucial part what makes a religious life.
Jodi Eichler-Levine, Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization at Lehigh University, is author of Suffer the Little Children: Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children's Literature.
“Eichler-Levine’s compelling account of how to experience religion outside the traditional spaces of focus illuminates how American Jews create and craft a Judaism as a form of resilience, a material encounter with memory, and a physical desire for continuity. This book is testimony and witness to these lives and to these practices.”—Ken Koltun-Fromm, author of Imagining the Jewish God
“Taking a diligent yet delightful approach, and keeping in view her personal imbrication in her own family’s ways, Jodi Eichler-Levine advances a remarkably comprehensive view of Jewish identities in the United States today. Analyzing the various ways Judaism and Jewishness can be understood in cultural, social, political, and religious contexts, Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis opens up new directions and reveals overlooked spaces, from the personal to the social and back.”—S. Brent Rodríguez-Plate, author of A History of Religion in 5½ Objects